In the story of the Ocean Viking, the ship carrying 234 migrants on board that was rejected by Italy and welcomed after a tough diplomatic clash in Toulouse, the new government of Giorgia Meloni must be acknowledged for an indisputable success: having put back on top of the media agenda of Italy, France and the EU the issue of migrants. Whether this communication strategy will translate into concrete results from the point of view of European immigration policies, starting with a sharing of the reception burdens among the Member States, remains to be seen. For the moment, it seems that the line of Palazzo Chigi has resulted in an own goal. But to fully evaluate the move by the new prime minister, it will also be necessary to see the cascading effects of the clash with Paris on other hot dossiers under discussion in Brussels, from energy to the new Stability Pact. Perhaps much more important issues for the future of Italians.
Let’s start with the story of the Ocean Viking. According to a Demos survey, Italians’ confidence in the new prime minister is on the rise, while the European Commission announced that it has convened an extraordinary meeting of interior ministers: “We cannot allow two member states to clash in public and create another mega crisis on migrants “, said EU Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, a member of the center-right party that rules in Greece and whose prime minister was recently accused of having sent back some boats to Turkey. Schinas also added that “some of the Member States that want our intervention in the current crisis are those that block progress on the Pact” on migration, the new draft law presented last year by the Commission to overcome the problem that was never resolved in the EU. : how to redistribute the weight of hospitality. And here lies the first risk for Meloni (and for Italy): the clash with Macron’s France may not be the best tactic to reform the package of immigration regulations that goes by the name of the Dublin Regulation.
The Regulation, which among other things was passed in its first version with the second Berlusconi government, still pleases a good part of the European right, and has resisted various attempts at reform due to the opposition of these parties. Like Poland and Hungary, that is the countries with the governments closest politically to Meloni, and like the French right. Not surprisingly, when the news emerged that the Ocean Viking would be welcomed in France, all the transalpine allies of the Italian government parties (from Marine Le Pen to the Republicans) seized the ball to attack Macron and turn their backs to requests for collaboration from Meloni. The French president, already struggling with the energy crisis, strikes and a Balkanized parliament, certainly did not need to manage an internal controversy over immigration. Hence the reaction, perhaps excessive, to the alleged diplomatic gaffe of Meloni (who would have announced the agreement on the Ocean Viking before it materialized).
From Macron’s point of view, resentment towards the Italian government has some reason: last June, with Draghi at Palazzo Chigi, it was precisely Macron who closed an agreement that provided for the commitment by 18 EU countries ( and 3 non-EU) to welcome 10 thousand migrants in a year, mostly from Italy to France and Germany. The fact that this agreement had so far remained hidden in the public debate was in some way a guarantee for its implementation: with the ongoing economic crisis, which this time is also affecting the German “engine”, no government wants to attract the accusations of opening doors to migrants while low-income sections of the population suffer. Also because Italy is not the only one to have numbers to wave to substantiate an internal immigration problem: as Berlin recalled in these hours, Germany has processed 154 thousand asylum requests since the beginning of the year, France 110 thousand and Italy about 50 thousand. They are more or less i numbers registered in 2021. There are no landings on French and German lands, but migrants arrive anyway, and often precisely from Italy (it is no coincidence that Macron has also tightened controls at our border).
Now, it is not that the agreement reached in June by Macron, Draghi and the leftist governments of Germany and Spain had started with the wind in its sails (so far there have been just over a hundred migrants redistributed). But it was still a first step to overcome the block to the Dublin reform imposed by countries such as Poland and Hungary, for example, which in fact did not sign the agreement. This is why putting the migrant issue in the spotlight, if it was a media success, could be a diplomatic joke for Italy.
Without the support of Paris anymore, and without having the support of his most trusted European allies, Meloni should turn to the Germany of Olaf Scholz, center-left leader struggling with a diplomatic tug-of-war with Macron on various issues, from energy to international trade, through the reform of the Stability Pact. On these issues, France is mostly aligned with Italy’s position: it is for example when it comes to creating a new EU common fund to pay the bills of businesses and households, but also on the reform of the Stability Pact in key anti-austerity. In both of these cases, Berlin is on the opposite side of the Paris-Rome duo, and a stalemate in the European response to the energy crisis could soon create more problems for the Meloni government itself (and the Italians) than is supposed to involve the increase. of landings.